Websites that only push out information are little better than a printed brochure. Websites which accept input from users are slightly better. Websites that accept requests from visitors and immediately deliver a response on your behalf are brilliant!
One of the first personal projects I ever did on the web was a sign up form for a local book club at a store called Media Play (RIP) in Marietta, GA. There was a monthly book reader’s club with relatively low attendance and they wanted to have people be able to sign up online. In simple HTML using CGI and Perl, I created a basic form that not only allowed the users to contact the book club staff but also sent an email back to the user with the dates the club would meet. Over time, that form developed into a full blown Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) and allowed members and staff to communicate constantly and in both directions. The year was 1995.
Today there are many CRMs available. In fact there are more than we know about because some are used privately. I know, I create them. You may not need a full blown CRM. What you need may be simply a form that will accept information from a visitor and respond to them with an ebook attached. Or maybe you just want a response that says “Thank You”. That’s the beauty of a custom developed web form with auto-responder. You get what you want and not what the company wants to sell you. Oh, and the monthly fee? There is none. You pay for the development time and the solution belongs to you. You can even re-sell it if you want.